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Make Believe Mix For January 2012 Featuring Sugar’s Campaign, Occult You And Cloudy Busey

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This year started off on a great note for Japanese music, as so many artists released great material in January. Heck, there is so much stuff not on this month’s Make Believe Mix that deserves more love that it is pretty staggering. Yet what did make it on this 27-minute mix were some of our favorite tunes of the past 31 days. Sugar’s Campaign and Magical Mistakes rep for Osaka-based party INNIT, while :visited’s “Parade Dream” works as this month’s CUZ ME PAIN addition. Elen Never Sleeps provides a wistful break before we dive back into electronic-leaning jams courtesy Occult You. And closing it all out, the gorgeous, lonely “Up To You (If You Love Me)” by Cloudy Busey.

Below is a list of artists and songs appearing in this month’s mix, in chronological order. Click the links to read more about them and find out how to buy/get their music. All artists featured gave me permission to include their music in this mix.

Sugar’s Campaign “Netokano” – New single. Watch the video here.

Magical Mistakes “Running Water” – From the Special Friends EP. Buy here.

:visited “Parade Dream” – From the forthcoming cassette True Chances out in early February. Site here.

Elen Never Sleeps “My Aquamarine” – From his newest digital single. Download it here.

Occult You “Psychic Feelings” – New online release. Download here.

Cloudy Busey “Up To You (If You Love Me)” – Online release. Listen here.

New Sugar’s Campaign: “Netokano”


The recent boom in electronic music in the Kansai area has thus far mostly been a story of individual producers, solo artists rapidly uploading new blasts of music to SoundCloud as fast as their Internet connection allows them to. Although a few places serve as gathering points for this scene – the parties put on by INNIT and producer Seiho’s label Day Tripper records just to name two examples – the majority of the work has been flowing from individual sources who sometime converge. Yet one exception exists, one that seemed lost in the whirl of great releases coming out last year – Sugar’s Campaign, a group featuring scene staples Avec Avec and the aforementioned Seiho, plus two other dudes. Back in 2011, Sugar’s Campaign was just an origin story, a nice little touch to add to articles about Avec or Seiho.

Yet out of nowhere, Sugar’s Campaign released a new song called “Netokano” last Friday, a track with one eye trained on the blooming Kansai electronic scene but existing well outside of the often spacey directions the artists there take. The opening “la la las” bring to mind the choir chirping of Passion Pit, but that American group indulges in a twee maximalism that turns nearly all their songs into Up With People taffy. Sugar’s Campaign slow things down after the initial vocal blast, though, settling into a grooveable pace suitable for the poppy crooning going off above it. Flashes of Avec Avec’s “Kuzuha No Sunday” break through, the chorus bringing to mind the sun blasts of that song. Yet this isn’t like the experimental music coming out of the INNIT camp – this is pure, unfiltered pop, and even at times striking one as contemporary J-Pop taken into more interesting directions (the fact the pre-chorus bit brings Hikaru Utada’s “First Love” to mind drills this home further). Avec and Seiho have flashed moments of pop smarts in their music, and here’s the confirmation, two geniuses coming together to piece together a pop gem. Listen above, and watch the Coca-Cola-rich video too.

New Takuma Of Sugar’s Campaign: “Kuzuha No Sunday”

Not to judge a place by a Wiki page alone, but Kuzuha city near Osaka looks like a pretty ho-hum locale. I’m sure the ballyhooed Kuzuha Mall delivers on great values and a bomb food court, but rarely is it a good sign that the shopping mall ends up being the highlight. Other points of interest include a golf course and a dental university. Not somewhere I’d want to spend my three-day weekend.

Takuma of Sugar’s Campaign would probably kick me in the teeth. The Hirakata native has created a bubbly celebration of the city called “Kuzuha No Sunday” which is so ridiculously triumphant and alive he should probably be made head of the tourism board. His beats smack extra hard, flurrying by so strong that you’re compelled to step in disjointed unison with it. Then the sweet spot – Takuma drops a keyboard line so damn cheery, almost as if he stumbled across the musical pattern to replicate a sunny Sunday afternoon, that everything takes off from there. He drops an exclamation mark into this blockparty shortly after, summoning up some great vocal samples that twirl up through the music and lend “Kuzuha” the final bit of warmth it needed. This is a hell of a production job by Takuma, recalling the very best of Warp artist Bibio’s music…this song is better than the entirety of Bibio’s latest album…and just being a big inviting number. This track could make the dental university into a hot spot. Listen below.

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New Sugar’s Campaign/Takuma: “PLUSminus (11.5.1 Mix)”

Not positive who to attribute this gloopy-bass-heavy track to. Takuma is a member of the group Sugar’s Campaign and I arrived at the SoundCloud page featuring “PLUSminus” by going from that group’s MySpace to a Twitter to…well SoundCloud. Yet Takuma seems to be the only one taking credit for this tune? Yeah, not sure, but onto the song! It’s labelled “synthwave” but I’m going to say this sounds more “chill,” especially if that word conjures up images of old MTV2 bumpers between commercials during Subterranean. It’s a bouncy bit of synth construction, highlighted by the semi-wonky bass pulsing through it. Takuma also works in a few vocal samples of people and bird chirps into this, playing with them in a way very similar to what Flying Lotus does (check that second sample, just like “Camel”). Still, he never blasts off out of his bedroom, “PLUSminus” sounding like a Washed Out instrumental turned stainless steel. Listen below.

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Sweet Escape: Sugar’s Campaign’s “Piggyback Sleep Road (Rough Demo)”

Well this certainly sounds trippy. Kyoto’s Sugar’s Campaign spaces out on a lazy-river’s worth of psychy sounds on new “rough demo” “Piggyback Sleep Road.” Though the most immediate feature of the song to stick out is probably the plethora of free-flowing electronics and other assorted noises, Campaign manage to craft a lovely guitar-driven song full of space at it’s heart. “Piggyback Sleep Road” could have remained an exciting and out-there tune just with that. Yet Sugar’s Campaign sprinkle all sorts of other Krofft Brother-aping sounds over the demo, though, to take it to another level of weird, man. Whereas similar drugs-have-to-be-involved-in-this bands (The Flaming Lips, Of Montreal, uhhh Pink Floyd?) sometimes get a bit too carried away with visions, Sugar’s Campaign time there substance-fueled moments just right as to never drown out the nice song chilling in the center. Listen here.